The UFC returned to Mexico City on Saturday night, and while the boisterous crowd in attendance hoped to finally see their champion defend his title, it was instead Brazil's Fabricio Werdum who earned his second win in front of the sellout crowd in the Mexico City Arena. This time, however, there is little to dispute about who reigns atop the heavyweight division.
While altitude proved to be a major hindrance to the exciting action displayed within the Octagon, many of the night's contests, including the main event showcase, led to some unexpected finishes and unpredicted winners.
Here are the real winners and losers from UFC 188:
Fabricio Werdum became the 14th undisputed UFC heavyweight champion in the main event of UFC 188 and did so with a third round submission win against Velasquez following an emphatic performance. Werdum was able to do what no one has done before, which is to take multiple rounds off Cain Velasquez and rock him repeatedly before locking in a submission. The Brazilian managed to slow down the fight to his speed and then showed off superior stamina, striking and, eventually, grappling. Werdum now holds wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez and that is a feat that arguably surpasses the heavyweight title he won on Saturday night.
Eddie Alvarez finally won his first UFC fight on Saturday night, nearly 12 years into his professional career. While the decision was a questionable one, there is little doubt that Alvarez deserves recognition for surviving that opening round and following up during the rest of the fight with one of his eyes swollen shut. As has become his trademark, Alvarez rallied back from a tough spot to prevail in the end. He will now enjoy a bump up in the lightweight ranking and does not have to face the fear of a two-fight losing streak in the UFC.
Yair Rodriguez dazzled fans during his feature fight on the main card to win a split decision against Charles Rosa. Rodriguez threw a variety of unorthodox strikes, including an incredible switch kick in the opening round that made him an instant fan favourite. Now 2-0 in the UFC, the TUF: Latin America featherweight tournament winner will have even more eyes on him as he continues his gradual climb up the featherweight ranks. Side note: He also happens to be the first fighter to puke on himself during a post-fight interview.
Efrain Escudero may have lost his first fight back in the UFC last September but he has since won back-to-back fights in the Octagon, including a 54 second submission victory against Drew Dober on Saturday night in Mexico City. It was an outstanding showing from Escudero, who came out aggressive and took advantage of an early opening in the fight. It was also his first opening round finish in over four years.
Patrick Williams injected some life into the UFC 188 fight card when he needed only 23 seconds to drop Alejandro Perez and put him to sleep with a guillotine choke. It was a remarkable rebound for Williams, as he went from a fighter who was KO'd by a flying knee over a year ago to a competitor who broke the record for the fastest submission in UFC bantamweight history.
Cain Velasquez looked like a shadow of his former self when he stepped into the Octagon for the evening's main event. Whether altitude or ring rust was to blame, the end result was the same - Velasquez was simply unable to apply his high-output game and eventually succumbed to a better fighter. Apart from getting rocked repeatedly during the fight, Velasquez unable to control any portion of the fight and once he was out of his comfort zone, he had no answers for Werdum's offence and instead chose to punch himself out before going for an unconvincing takedown that led to the finish. Velasquez has now lost his UFC title twice yet remains one of the division's premier fighters. There is little doubt that a rematch will take place at some point in the foreseeable future.
Nate Marquardt suffered his second consecutive loss on Saturday when his corner stopped the fight against Kelvin Gastelum between the second and third rounds of their feature fight. He looked significantly slower than his opponent, which should surprise no one considering the 13-year age gap between them. Once he ate a few shots in the second round, it was clear that Marquardt was no longer able to offer any worthy resistance. Given that he has now lost five of his last six fights, the end is undoubtedly nearing for "The Great."
Dan Miragliotta let the Marquardt-Gastelum fight go on for so long that even Marquardt's corner came to the logical conclusion before he did. Let that settle in. Granted Miragliotta had a closer view of the fight, there was little doubt that he should have stopped the contest in the second round instead of allowing the round to play itself out. Questionable refereeing at best.
Cathal Pendred may arguably be the most unconvincing fighter to start his UFC career with a 4-0 record in the Octagon. Few fighters have been as consistently underwhelming as Pendred manages to be, which is certainly an achievement in itself. However, his fight on Saturday night was one of the worst showings of any winning fighter in recent memory and earned a post-fight reaction from fans that matched the abhorrent performance. To add to the ridiculousness of the situation, Pendred is also riding one of the longest win streaks of any fighter in the UFC welterweight division. Think about that the next time you struggle to keep yourself awake during one of his ‘fights.'
Angela Hill looked as though she was in quite the anxious state as she walked out to the Octagon on Saturday and it certainly manifested that way in the fight, as she appeared hesitant and cautious throughout the encounter. She also looked undertrained and was unable to handle the high altitude in Mexico City, which was made clear from the deep breaths she took in between rounds. Overall, it led to a loss and one of the more lackluster fights on the card.
Henry Cejudo may have maintained his undefeated streak with a decision victory against Chico Camus at UFC 188 but he did little to emphasize that he is the deserving No. 1 contender in the flyweight division. While much of that was due to Camus' surprising resiliency during the encounter, Cejudo showed signs of his inexperience during the bout and even struggled to secure takedowns against Camus. Instead of placing him in an immediate title shot, which would be an option since there are few other fresh contenders in the division, Cejudo should face a fighter like Joseph Benavidez to earn that title shot.